Oh, Jesus. He makes it sound so simple, doesn’t He? “Don’t worry.” “Forgive others.”
Forgiveness is a touchy subject. It’s one which makes me bristle. If I can’t forgive someone, there is a good reason. In the past, I’ve dismissed God from the equation with the attitude that He can’t possibly understand the wrong that was perpetrated against me. Sometimes, I deserve to make the other person squirm.
Wow. There’s a lot of stuff in that paragraph. As people, it’s easy to hold a grudge and be unforgiving. Does the last sentence make you a bit uneasy? I felt weird typing it—but I’ve done it before.
Is that the handle that makes it easy to hold a grudge—the feeling that someone else needs to pay for the offense? Is part of the problem with forgiveness the fact you are reading Matthew 6:12 by itself?
The Act of Forgiveness
Look back to Jesus’ earlier words as in heaven, so on the earth then look ahead to the verses just after the, “Amen.” This is the paraphrase from The Message.
In prayer there is a connection between what God does and what you do.
You can’t get forgiveness from God, for instance, without also forgiving others.
If you refuse to do your part, you cut yourself off from God’s part. Matthew 6:14-15 (MSG)
God wants His children to fulfill their destiny and act like Him–Christ is the living example. That action is not an emotion. It is an act of will. Forgiveness is just that –an act of will—not an emotion or feeling. It is the act of will Jesus demonstrated when He prayed for God to spare Him the agony of the cross. That agony paid the price of redemption. Jesus didn’t feel like dying on the cross—His heart was filled with dread. In willful obedience, Jesus died to offer sinful humanity forgiveness and redemption. You and I don’t deserve forgiveness. You and I deserve punishment. With grace and mercy, God offers forgiveness to anyone who asks because of Jesus’ sacrifice. Jesus teaches His followers to act heavenly while here on earth.
What does it mean to say forgiveness is an act of will? It means:
- One doesn’t have to have warm fuzzy feelings before he’s able to forgive someone who has wronged him.
- The situation or circumstances of life may remain permanently altered. Sin changes things. Sometimes sin changes things so much the situation can’t go back to like it was. That doesn’t mean there is no forgiveness. There are many examples of lives changed by sin but redeemed by forgiveness throughout the Bible.
- Choosing to forgive is the same choice God makes toward humanity. God forgives when there is no reason for Him to forgive. He cancels the debt of sin and doesn’t require the sin-sick soul to bear that burden. He acts mercifully in His choice to forgive. Then He looks at His creation and commands, Be like Me—forgive.
It’s a difficult subject. Every time I intentionally think of it, I wonder if I can do it. I wonder if I’ve done it. Forgiveness is such an emotionally charged subject it’s easy to wrestle with the subject and never get around to the action.
Jesus teaches His followers—believers—to bring their sin to God for forgiveness. Then Jesus teaches the believer to extend that grace and mercy to others as he or she lives out God’s heavenly kingdom here on earth.
Father, thank You for Your gracious forgiveness, so undeserved but so glorious and free. Help me imitate You in my willingness to forgive. Help me extend mercy and grace to those who wrong me. Teach me to be like You.
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